BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Sheriff’s Department asked the Upshur County Commission to help start a new version of the D.A.R.E. program – Drug Abuse Resistance Education – in local schools.
Sheriff David Coffman and Lt. Mark Davis attended Thursday’s Upshur County Commission meeting to explain their plan for bringing D.A.R.E. back to Upshur County – and the reasoning behind it.
“We’re always looking for resources that can be helpful, especially for our young people in our community,” Coffman said. “We had a D.A.R.E. program here for many years, and it worked out very well, but initially, it was funded by grant money.”
He said the grant money dried up, so D.A.R.E. has not been in Upshur County for about 19 years. But the sheriff’s department hopes to revive it.
“I’m a firm believer in what D.A.R.E. does and what it represents and what it teaches,” Davis said. “The new DARE program – it has changed quite a bit, to tell you the truth.”
He said D.A.R.E. is in over 10,000 communities, and there are over 15,000 D.A.R.E. officers in the U.S., in all 50 states, with the purpose of teaching kids the skills to turn down drugs and to live a healthy, drug-free life. One of the changes to the program is that it now runs in grades K-12, and it is called Keeping it REAL.
“[The acronym REAL] stands for Refuse, Explain, Avoid and Leave,” Davis said. “Those are the core things that they’re going to teach these children – how to resist pressure and how to walk away from situations involving drugs.”
Officers who want to teach the D.A.R.E. program must take an 80-hour course beforehand where they’ll be taught classroom management tactics, teaching skills and program material.
Davis said when he taught the program it lasted 16 weeks, but it has now been condensed into a 10-week program.
“During that 10-week program, the D.A.R.E. officer will teach for a short part of the classes, about an hour and then the kids do a lot of interaction,” Davis said. “They get to do a lot of role play, which is one of the best ways that kids learn to overcome the fear of talking with other people or being in a situation [involving illegal drugs].”
There is no training program based in West Virginia, but Davis said he found one in Maryland, which will start up Sept. 8 and will run through Sept. 20.
“My goal would be to start this program right now in the sixth grade because we’ve got a PRO (prevention resource) officer in that school, CJ Day,” Davis said. “The target schedule that I would like to see happen is to get CJ enrolled in this school in September, and have him trained, ready to go and then implement this in January of 2020.
Davis said after that, he wants to get the PRO officer from the high school, Cpl. Rocky Hebb, enrolled in training in fall 2020.
His ultimate goal is to also have a D.A.R.E. officer at the elementary level so the program is taught at each stage of school.
“That’s the advantage we didn’t have in from ‘92 to 2000 was, it was only fifth grade, so you didn’t have any way of really following through or keeping up with the number of kids that we put through the program,” Davis said.
The cost for training an officer varies from each state, but Davis said the one he found in Maryland is free, but it is taught on a college campus and they charge $55 a day for an officer to attend for lodging, breakfast and lunch so the total will be about $550.
“There are also these workbooks for the kids that cost $1.29 apiece,” Davis said. “When you are implementing a D.A.R.E. program or reinstating a D.A.R.E. program, workbook materials for the first year are free, so we will be able to implement that.”
Coffman told the commission what is needed to restart the D.A.R.E. program again is a contract between the sheriff’s department and the superintendent of schools.
“It’s just a simple contract that states the Board of Education is integrated with the sheriff of the county to implement this program throughout the schools,” Coffman said.
Commissioner Terry Cutright made a motion to send officers to the training program and that motion was seconded by Commissioner Kristie Tenney. The motion passed unanimously.